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Portrait of the first laughing club in India, its founding by a doctor who believes that laughter is the best medicine, his outreach to schools, interviews with club members, scenes of outdoor sessions, and shots of billboards and street scenes in contemporary Mumbai. Club members gather, stretch, and start to laugh. Founder Dr. Madan Kararia talks of the club's history and the growth of laughing clubs across the country. Among those interviewed, there's a stockbroker, three bawdy women, a musician, a widow laughing to cope with grief, and two old men - friends since school days who meet daily to laugh. No form, no fuss: happiness equals health. Written by
By her account, Mira Nair was in Bombay, stuck in traffic on Marine Drive and in the midst of a movie-maker's equivalent of writer's block when she discovered the source of traffic was hundreds of women dressed in all white crossing the street. She was intrigued and she ditched her cab, followed these women with her DV camera and some time later, the Laughing Club of India was born. See more »
I really enjoyed the film--perhaps because I adore the films of Mira Nair
From the onset, you need to know that I am not totally unbiased in this review. I have seen most of director Mira Nair's films and several are among my favorite films by non-Hollywood directors (such as "Monsoon Wedding"). So I already was feeling very favorably towards the film before it began. Had I not adored her work, perhaps I might not have been as captivated by the subject matter.
The film is shot on videotape and I found it on a DVD entitled "Full Frame: Documentary Film Festival: 1". It was the first film on the DVD and I was thrilled to see that almost all the shorts on the DVD were exceptional--so much so that I recommend you try to find a copy.
The film is about a strange phenomenon that began in India--laughing clubs. A local doctor is interviewed and he explains that he uses "laugh therapy" to improve lives and perhaps help people live longer. At first, the people met in the park and told jokes. However, shortly after this (when they ran out of jokes), the began going through many laughing exercises where they laughed and laughed in groups--thus lowering inhibitions and forcing people to become happy. Believe it or not, there is something to this, as for mild depression this can be quite helpful--an an ex-therapist I should know. To show how it impacts people, they not only show the clubs in action but also interview people and they talk about the effect the club has had on them. Particularly poignant are widows who have received a greater sense of happiness and purpose since joining the clubs.
Later the film shows the doctor in New York teaching his philosophy. While not discussed in the film, some unusual Protestant groups have also adopted this laughter and have termed it "the gift of laughter" or "Toronto Blessing" after the city in which this 'gift' first appeared. They treat it like one of the gifts of the spirit and apparently the church members spontaneously break into hysterical laughter similar to how some others break into 'tongues'. This might make for an unusual and interesting follow-up film.
Overall, a strange but well made and captivating film. Plus, I think I enjoyed it because when some of these dear people laughed, I couldn't help but laugh back--it was rather infectious.
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